The Oak Park Heights City Council in a 4-1 vote passed a resolution accepting the final plan for the St. Croix River Crossing Project. Oak Park Heights Mayor David Beaudet dissented.
Gov. Mark Dayton, in a letter hand-delivered by MnDOT just prior to the meeting, stated he would seek to make the city of Oak Park Heights "whole in its cost" through additional federal funding, and if that fails, he would seek $1.5 million in the next biennium to offset some of the costs to the city.
MnDOT now has municipal consent from Stillwater, Bayport and Oak Park Heights, and the support of Washington County moving forward.
That means MnDOT is able to begin to solicitation process for the design-build contract to build all the approach roadways, Project Manager Jon Chiglo said. That soliciting process is expected to begin in the next seven to 10 days, MnDOT will short-list in October, award the contract in February and start construction in May 2013.
The bridge is expected to be complete by fall of 2016.
"It always a good feeling to be able to take the next step forward," Chiglo said. "All the high highs make it worth while when you go through the low lows. This is a high, and there will be some highs and lows as we move forward on the job, but this is something a lot of people put a lot of effort in to accomplish and the should savor the moment, because starting tomorrow we're going to get back to work."
MnDOT and the city of Oak Park Heights still have to work out the cooperative construction agreement, which is a "small-cost" element that outlines responsibility for maintaining infrastructure that is being built as part of the project, and the master utility agreement that will address the scope of the utility work.
Chiglo said he doesn't see either of those issues as a concern moving forward.
"I think we'll be able to work through that," Chiglo said.
A statement from the Coalition for the St. Croix River Crossing reads:
Today is a great day for everyone who wants a new bridge across the St. Croix River. Tonight’s 4-1 vote by the Oak Park Heights City Council to approve plans for the St. Croix River Crossing keeps this project on its new aggressive schedule and is a significant step forward for our entire region. This decision resolves one of the final key challenges for this critical project and allows the Minnesota Department of Transportation to continue preparing for a 2013 construction start.
Over the past two decades, the St. Croix River Crossing project has faced significant delays and obstacles, but local leaders have been determined to solve this major transportation safety issue and bottleneck throughout the process. The coalition we formed in 2011 has been singularly focused on solutions. The people of the St. Croix Valley have waited too long and accomplished far too much together to let any solvable issues stand in our way.
Tonight the Oak Park Heights City Council determined that this project is the best plan for the entire community and recognized that more negotiation would simply drive up costs and delay getting people to work. We are glad that the city council and MnDOT were able to come together to resolve a very challenging set of issues so that the bridge can continue to move forward.
From Chuck Dougherty and Chuck LeRoux, Members of the Coalition for the St. Croix River Crossing executive committee and Oak Park Heights residents
This post will be updated with quotes, so check back.
It’s decision day for the Oak Park Heights City Council.
"It's high noon," Oak Park Heights Mayor David Beaudet told the Pioneer Press. "It's going to come down to the question of the $3 million, and whether we're going to get a commitment in writing from the Minnesota Department of Transportation to get the impacted utilities paid for. Without that commitment, I don't know what will happen."
At the heart of the issue is the ongoing dispute between the city and MnDOT regarding municipal consent and city utilities.
By Aug. 29 the council must decide if the construction plans submitted by MnDOT on July 2 are in accordance with the layout approved by the city in 1995.
The city can decide to reject the plan, request a panel to determine if there is any significant difference between this plan and one previously submitted by MnDOT, or take no action (accept the plan).
If the City Council votes to reject the current MnDOT plan—and arrangements to address utility issues—the project could be delayed by one year, which according to bridge advocates, would increase project costs by $35-45 million.
If the City Council approves, and accepts MnDOT’s plan, the project will stay on track and work will start early 2013.